With so many ebook offers online these days, we really are spoilt for choice when it comes to buying books. I often buy books on impulse, which is why my ‘to be read’ pile is heaving. Sometimes I make good choices, other times not so good. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the novel I bought on a whim, it might be that it’s just not doing it for me or that I’m not in the mood for that particular genre. ‘Maybe you shouldn’t be so hasty when buying books,’ my husband said. ‘Perhaps you should be more prudent with your selections.’ This got me thinking, what makes us buy a book in the first place? I spoke to a few readers.
Let’s start with the cover because it’s usually the first port of call. ‘I would say an attractive or unusual cover is the first thing to draw me when browsing in a shop,’ said avid reader, Joy, ‘and even if I’ve never heard of the author, if the blurb on the back interests me, I’ll buy the book. To me, the visual aspect is very important. Like food, clothing, etc., if something catches your eye, you want to take a closer look.’
A lot of readers seem to be influenced by the cover of a book because it reflects the theme of the novel, giving you a gist of the story. ‘The cover helps a lot,’ Caroline, a self-confessed bookaholic, explained, ‘It has to convey the mood of the book e.g. mystery, romance or thriller.’
‘A book jacket needs to stand out on the shelf, or if it’s a thumbnail in digital format then it needs to be striking enough to catch the potential buyer’s attention,’ said Anna, another book lover. ‘If it doesn’t scream out read me then the sale could go to an adjoining book on the stand.’
But should we always judge a book by its cover? Not according to book-loving Barbara, ‘I always used to be influenced by book covers, but after joining a reading group and having my eyes opened to different genres I would now try anything. This is the reason my’ to read pile’ has got bigger!’ A very valid point, I think.
The author is a very popular decision factor when it comes to buying a book. ‘I think it’s a combination of things,’ Fran told me. ‘Author reputation at the top, then cover probably. I am also a sucker for a punchy title.’
Readers tend to stick with an author because they like their style, their voice, and usually their themes. When a reader connects with an author, loyalty ensues. ‘Loyalty to the author,’ Jan told me, ‘anticipation of the latest novel is important to me. Cover must stand out too, and not too long. 500 pages max.’ That’s pretty long to me, Jan.
However, although author loyalty prevails, readers are always on the lookout for new material to read, often willing to give an unknown or new author’s book a go, which in turn can lead to author loyalty. ‘If I’ve read something by them that I like,’ Carol enthused, ‘I’ll always try the rest.’
Book reviews are easily accessible online. You only have to go onto Amazon or Goodreads to find out what other readers thought of a book you’re considering. But book reviews weren’t at the top of the list with my panel of readers. ‘Author if it’s someone I really like,’ Lisa told me, ‘then the cover, followed by blurb or reviews.’ Cynthia’s choices are similar, ‘Firstly the author, followed by blurb and then the cover. I also look at the reviews.’
A book review, even a bad one, can be useful if it’s constructive. However, at the end of the day, it is down to a reader’s personal choice and taste. ‘I don’t go on reviews ever, ’Kerrie pointed out. “My opinion would probably be completely different!’ Kerrie does have a point as reading is a very subjective.
Although book reviews didn’t appear to carry much weight with my reader panel, the reverse was true when it came to books recommended by friends and book bloggers.
‘I go on recommendations by friends mainly,’ Karen said, ‘book reviewers too but to a lesser extent. I might read reviews, but make my own mind up generally.’
Books recommended by family and friends also scored high when reading a book by a new or unknown author, as Sally explained. ‘If it was recommended to me and I liked the sound of it, then I definitely would read it.’
Booklover, Jan, puts recommendations at the top of her list. ‘After recommendations, it would be cover to attract me, then blurb, then I read the start of the third chapter (if it’s in a bookshop) or page through to the middle of the sample on Amazon, then decide.’ Good strategy, Jan.
Once you pick a book off the shelf, the next thing you’re likely to do is to turn it over and read the blurb. A blurb can be a hooker or a sinker at this point. ‘Blurb first,’ avid reader, Leanne, told me, ‘as that’s what got me reading again.’
The purpose of a book blurb is to give the reader a concise account of the storyline and hook them at the same time. ‘A blurb has to be catchy and brief,’ bookworm, Sarah, insisted, “I always turn the book over and read the blurb. It’s the make or break point for me.’
The title of a book can be one word or several, but it must hold intrigue and curiosity. It’s the first thing that a reader sees or hears, so it needs to be punchy. ‘The title may interest me,’ Lorna said, ‘if it’s intriguing I’ll buy it.’ And Jayne’s thoughts were similar. ‘The title grabs my attention first, then I’ll read the blurb.’
Although many readers step outside their comfort zone and read something different occasionally, we all have our preferred genre and generally tend to stick to it. ‘When choosing for my Kindle I usually start off with the genre,’ Maureen said. ‘Crime, thriller, mystery, romance or whatever – then line up a few likely candidates.’
Genre is a good place to start if you’re not sure what to read next. ‘It helps to narrow things down,’ Dani told me. ‘I then tend to look at the author and blurb, and make a decision based on this. But I’m also happy to read a debut novel as well as books by authors I’m not familiar with or whose work I’ve not read before.’ Nice one, Dani. New authors need all the love and support they can get.
The font can also influence a reader’s book choice. ‘If the font is too small, I find that unfriendly,’ book enthusiast, Jane, pointed out, ‘even though I have good eyesight.’ Jane raises a good point. A book with tiny or illegible font can spoil the reader’s experience and can give the impression that the book hasn’t been professionally produced.
But as well as font, there is also the weight and overall size of a book that some readers may consider before buying. ‘Now I am disabled,’ Caroline said, ‘I am also looking at the size and weight of a book!’
Final word from me
My research concludes that book buying is based on a mixture of factors. My book buying strategy goes something like this – first port of call is cover, then of I like the sound of the title, I read the blurb, if I like the sound of the story-line, I read the first paragraph (my POV preference is first-person, present tense, by the way, so that always helps). If the author’s style is engaging, the deal is done. Sold!
If there’s anything you’d like to add, please feel free to leave your comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback.